The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Patriotism In An Antique Shop

By Elaine Slater Reese

I'm not much of a history buff.  I do, however find myself interested in books, movies, and facts that deal with the Civil War. Of course, I like to think of myself as certainly a patriotic American. Knowing that I would be writing an article about Veterans' Day, I started with the basic step.  What did the dictionary have to say? It defined patriotism as love of one's country and devotion to it.

Then at a rummage sale a very small old book published in 1942 caught my eye. For twenty-five cents it was mine. The author was the poet Edgar A. Guest, and the title of the book was POEMS OF PATRIOTISM. One of the best poems in it was one called "A Father's Thoughts". 

Two thoughts in the first part of the poem really tugged at my heart - "Because I am his father, they expect me to put grief away" and " But how I felt, they little know, The day I smiled and let him go." Those lines spelled patriotism to me - loving and supporting our country often means heartache beyond what those of us who have not experienced it can really understand.

A few days later I found myself in an antique shop. The building had been an old mill. The water rushed down the large stream out back. It was my kind of shop - one filled with so many different items from the past - each with its own untold story. 

Even more exciting was the tall, thin fellow sitting at the desk at the checkout counter. He was friendly and we chatted about the items I had purchased. When I handed him my check, he immediately noticed my address printed on it. "You ever heard of Trig?" he questioned. The name rang no bells! "Well, Trig lived in your town for years. He was a POW in World War II." Then he told me Trig's full name.  "Of course, I knew him. I knew him by the name of Joe. 

I live across from the American Legion Building. His car with his POW license plates was often parked there." The man sort of slumped down into the chair behind the counter. I could see the change of expression on his face. Then his story began. "I was wounded in Viet Nam. They sent me to a hospital back here in a near-by state. No one - not one person was there to greet me when I arrived back. No one - no one came to see me in that hospital. I laid there day after day. And then one day Trig walked through the door. Trig was a distant cousin of mine - of course, older than me. Trig cared. He talked with me. He listened. He shared some of his WWII stories. He listened to my story. We had never been real close before. But now we were not just cousins - we seemed to be brothers bound together by what we had seen, done and given because we loved America."

As tears filled his eyes, the soldier (he was no longer the man behind the counter) said, "It was so lonely - so hard. It just seemed no one cared what we had done." Then the tears filled my eyes, and I shook his hand and said, "Thank you, Soldier! Thank you for what you did and gave for all this I take so for granted." I stood there in that antique shop surrounded by all those items - each with its untold story of our ancestors . 

Who did the item belong to? What had been its purpose? How did it get to the shop?  Did no one care enough to appreciate and value it? And again I looked at the Vietnam Veteran.

I thought of how he and so many others who have given time, minds, body parts, and life itself for our country have often felt really unappreciated. Suddenly I truly understood the word patriotism because I had met the patriot.